Most of us have fond memories of reading in the library as a youngster, and with February designated as “National Library Lovers’ Month,” this is the perfect time to reflect on the importance of reading in everyone’s lives. “National Library Lovers’ Month” is a celebration of school, public and private libraries of all types.
At Bryant Elementary School — one of two elementary schools in the Mission Promise Neighborhood — Family Success Coach Dannhae Herrera-Wilson (photo, center) knows that not all Mission Promise Neighborhood families have the tools to foster reading in the home.
“It’s vital that parents take an active role by reading to their children at a young age. This creates a love of books, and simultaneously builds language skills. This is especially important for children from immigrant families, of which there are many in the Mission Promise Neighborhood,” explains Herrera-Wilson.
As part of “National Library Lovers’ Month,” Herrera-Wilson recently brought a group of parents to the San Francisco Main Library.
None of the parents had ever set foot in this monumental building near City Hall at the Civic Center — or any library at all. With a collection of over 3.5 million books, this place can seem daunting. That’s why Herrera-Wilson set up the excursion, gave a tour and ensured parents obtained library cards.
Tour participants included Safa, a native of Yemen, a country she explained has no libraries for children. Safa applied for a library card, as did her two children. The oldest, her son Ahmed (pictured with his new library card), attends Bryant Elementary School. Safa is looking to start ESL classes at City College.
MaryRose, originally from the Philippines, was also in attendance. MaryRose’s daughter, an ardent reader named Aubry, attends Bryant Elementary. The youngest daughter, 4-year-old Nikki, is looking to start Transitional Kindergarten. “This is a great place. Thank you for bringing us here!” stated MaryRose.
Another parent taken to the library was Luis, originally from Guatemala. The youngest of six children, Luis had only made it as far as third grade because to needed to work the land as a way to help his family survive. Luis’ daughter attends Bryant Elementary. He explained why he took this trip as follows: “I want to get my library card so that I can get books in Spanish and read to my daughter, and she can read books in English to me. I feel like I am learning, just like her. I plan to return with my two children and make it a family experience.”
Herrera-Wilson also made sure to avail the parents of the venue’s growing eLibrary, especially eLearning materials that can assist students. This ties into Making Connections, a digital literacy course for parents that teaches how to use myON, an online reading platform for students. Last fall, the Mission Promise Neighborhood was asked to partner with SFUSD to lead the Making Connections program. Ana Avilez, a mother to two young children of her own, now spearheads this initiative, bridging the eLearning divide for Mission Promise Neighborhood families. Ana builds courses for parents and goes directly into schools to provide access to supplementary tools for the home, so that all students can continue building their literary skills.
Such work is vital, with the statistics showcasing the need for families. At an early age, only 8.6 percent of 3-year-olds in the Mission Promise Neighborhood meet Desired Results Development Profile (DRDP) standards for English-language ability. Once in elementary school, 15 percent of third-grade students (compared to 48 percent in SFUSD overall) score at or above proficiency in English-language arts, while 22 percent of fifth-grade students (compared to 55 percent in SFUSD overall) score at or above proficiency in the same category.
Today’s excursion was a step in the right direction, Herrera-Wilson acting as a connector to resources, as she does every day. As with any movement, those initial steps can lead to much bigger things, especially as participants go back in the community and tell of their experience.
Summing up why this outing was so important to Mission Promise Neighborhood families, Herrera-Wilson, a first-generation immigrant from Nicaragua, stated, “My desire to advocate for, empower and work with low-income families, immigrant families and multicultural families is fueled by my strong conviction that access to education is a human right regardless of race, or economic or legal status. I particularly enjoy working with women and children because I witness their vulnerability and at the same time recognize their potential, which can be beyond their imagination.”
About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.